SON Doctoral Student Receives Hope Heart Institute Funding

UNC School of Nursing doctoral student, Holly Wei, is the first recipient of funding from the Hope Heart Institute’s Dr. Lester Sauvage Research Fund, which was created to honor the legacy of the Institute’s founder. Wei will use the seed funding to complete her dissertation, which focuses on the experiences of parents of children who require surgery because of congenital heart disease.

The Hope Heart Institute in Bellevue, Washington, is a non-profit organization that focuses on cardiovascular research and prevention. The institute was founded by Dr. Sauvage, a cardiac surgeon who pioneered bypass graft surgery and many other groundbreaking procedures and devices still used today. He was also well known for his patient care – he would often sit with patients and their families after surgery, feeding them or helping them wash their hair while talking about the importance of having a purpose in their life. The Sauvage Research Fund was recently created honor to Dr. Sauvage, who passed away in June 2015.

Wei has worked as a pediatric nurse in UNC Hospitals since 2000, and like Dr. Sauvage, understands the importance of being with patients and their families. She became inspired to search for evidence-based care to help families of children undergoing heart surgery after listening to the worries of a mother who’s baby had received heart surgery. Children with congenital heart disease usually require frequent and lengthy hospitalizations for intensive medical and surgical treatments, which can be very stressful for parents. For her dissertation, Wei studied how parents assess the causes of their stress during their child’s hospitalization as well as their views of health care providers’ actions.

Kristen M. Swanson, former dean of the School of Nursing, was Wei’s faculty advisor and continues to be a valuable mentor. Swanson helped connect Wei with the Hope Heart Institute. Wei, who is also the Jane Winningham Smith Cardiovascular Nursing scholar, is scheduled to defend her dissertation in the fall and will later travel to Seattle to present her work.

“I thank the Hope Heart Institute from the bottom of my heart for giving me this honor to be the first recipient of the Dr. Sauvage Research Fund,” says Wei. “My goal is to continue to integrate nursing theory and research into clinical practice to provide an optimal healing environment for patients, families and staff.”